From the Pastor

Wait for it. Wait for it. This Sunday, December 3rd marks the beginning of Advent, a season of holy longing. With Christians around the world, we eagerly anticipate the birth of Christ.  We prepare room for Jesus – in our daily lives, in our homes, in our relationships. This is an active waiting filled with hope and great joy. And when Christmas finally comes, it’s worth the wait.

As you and yours wait faithfully, there’s no need to sit idly and twiddle your thumbs. Think of these as holy possibilities, not holy obligations. I commend to you this Active Advent Calendar. It contains a list of reflections and activities that embrace the waiting and help you prepare for the birth of Jesus.  If you’re a rule follower, you can begin today, December 1 and continue through to Christmas. If you’re a rebel, I dare you to meander throughout, pick your favorites, change up the order, do what you will. Either way, I hope that this time of active waiting will create space in your life so that Christ might manger with you.

Advent Blessings!

Pastor Jen

 

ACTION! ADVENT CALENDAR

  1. Create space for your nativity, as you set it out take a moment to retell the story. Don’t have a nativity? Ask Pastor Jen to help you make one or find one.
  1. Make a list of 10 things that bring you HOPE.
  2. Keep awake! What makes you tired or bored. How might you be more awake to God at work in these things?
  3. Wake up 10 minutes early, use the time to execute a Random Act of Kindness.
  4. Contribute toward the Christmas Food Bag collection for our friends at Holmsley Elementary.
  5. Read about Christ the Light (John 1:1-5) then go for a walk in or around your neighborhood and look at Christmas lights.
  6. Make a homemade card for someone and hand deliver it.
  7. Introduce yourself to a neighbor that you have never met before.
  8. Make a list of 10 places that bring you PEACE.
  9. Prepare the way of the Lord! What might it look like for you to prepare Christ room in your home and your heart?
  10. Buy some water, coffee, cocoa, snacks, etc. to give to people you meet on the street.
  11. Read Luke’s Nativity Story (Luke 2:1-20) then retell the story in your own words.
  12. Find 5 things that you could do without and donate them.
  13. Read a newspaper or watch the news, then pray for all the places that need peace in our world.
  14. Sit still for 5 minutes and imagine what peace looks like.
  15. Make a list of 10 things that bring you JOY.
  16. Do not be afraid! Think about what makes you afraid. Is it realistic? How does it hold you back from living fully?
  17. Bake some treats for Bethesda’s Cocoa & Cookies gathering, then come mingle.
  18. Read Matthew’s Nativity Story (Matthew 1:18-2:12) then retell the story in your own words.
  19. Buy something you’d really like to have for yourself and give it away.
  20. Give $5 to someone who looks like they could use a little joy and love.
  21. Create some paper snow-flakes and hang them up for others to enjoy.
  22. Make a list of 10 people who taught you how to LOVE.
  23. Let your soul Magnify the Lord. Find a Christmas Eve Worship to attend with your people.
  24. Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus!

 

From the Pastor

 

Luther Rose

 

From one celebration to the next! After marking our 10th Anniversary with generosity and joy, we look forward to marking the 500thAnniversary of the Reformation with grace and unity.

October 31, 2017 marks the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On this day in 1517, Martin Luther proposed a conversation, 95 theses to be exact, around issues of repentance and the selling of indulgences in the Roman Catholic Church. This conversation turned into the Lutheran Christian tradition, a tradition steeped in grace and sacramental community.

Our community will celebrate the 500th Anniversary in a couple ways.

–        500 Years of God’s Grace in Action – A sermon series and worship focus for the month of October. Each Sundaywe’ll explore core theological concepts and grace in action through the Lutheran tradition.

–        Reformation Book Store – A mini-book store will open October 8 with an offering of Reformation-themed books from Augsburg Fortress.

–        Reformation Beer & Hymns – Our 4th Annual event will take place at Saint Arnold Brewing Co. on October 22. This year, Bishop Michael Rinehart will join our faithful band! Get your tickets today! All proceeds go to ELCA World Hunger.

–        Reformation 500 Prayer Service at the Co-Cathedral in downtown Houston, on the evening of October 25. We celebrate our shared history with the Roman Catholic Church. All our welcome!

–        Reformation Sunday! A celebratory worship on October 29. Wear red!

Let’s celebrate 500 years of God’s grace in action. And in doing this, we’ll likely catch another glimpse of God’s reforming work among us still today.

Peace.

Pastor Jen

From the Pastor

credo water

The gauntlet has been cast. Last month, I challenged all of you to write a personal creed, a statement of faith that proclaims your understanding of God and your modus operandi. Are you up for the challenge?

You – yes you, in the back row – you are invited to write and read a personal statement beginning with the words, “This I Believe.” September 18 we will start our new series, Credo. The series explores one of our communal statements of faith, The Apostles Creed. As Christians, we hold certain beliefs in common, and diverge on others based on our unique life experiences.

Your creed might take on a variety of forms. You might elect to write a topical creed focusing on a key characteristic of God. Maybe highlighting the welcoming nature of God, the radical welcome of Jesus – inviting all to the table – and your own personal calling to stand for welcome. Or, perhaps the format will give shape to your creed. Perhaps you are a list-maker or a poet or a storyteller. Let the medium be your guide in shaping the message.

I invite / welcome / challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone, to intentionally reflect on your beliefs, and to find the courage to share. Don’t know where to begin? Here are two examples of personal creeds. I hope they stir your imagination as you prepare to write your own. Still perplexed? Lets grab a coffee, or a glass of wine and figure it out together!

Peace.

Pastor Jen

 

This I Believe
By Jen Kindsvatter

I believe that God, my God, called life into being.
That God stooped down, felt the dirt under her fingernails, and stirred-up: new life.
Maybe it wasn’t in 6 days, or a year or a decade. But it was in time, in divine time.

And in this creation, God, my God, saw that it was very good.
The creepy crawly things, the slightly smelly things, the seemingly useless things.
The creator of all – saw it all – as good, as worthy, as purposeful.

This God, my God, did not see all that was made and say, “That will do.”
Instead, he said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Fill the world with good things.
With green growing things, spiny spikey things, untamed wild things. Multiply!

In the midst of this creation saga, my God breathed deep
And exhaled her very own breath of life, into thin air, and fulfilled: new life.
Human life, in the image of God, the heartbeat of the Creator.

And this life-giving, fruit-bearing heart was set to work.
To till and to keep, for the sake of others.
To reign, not with dominion, but with creative passion and wonder.

Eden did not last long.
The shiny packaging of sin, of power, lured the life-giving keeper away from wonder, Temptation took root, life began to dwindle.

Creation groans. God, my God, looks on in despair. But not defeat.
The Creator of all, creates again.
This time, breathing her very own breath of life into divine lungs.

Hope is restored. New life breaks forth from the desolation.
From the wounded side of the divine, pores living water for all.
The life-giving, fruit-bearing keeper is restored and lives to restore.

This, I believe.

 

This, I believe.
By Jen Kindsvatter

I believe all people have intrinsic value. Not based on how they behave or what they have accomplished. Based on their humanity.

I believe that I have intrinsic value. That I am not defined by how busy I am or how much wealth I amass. That the labels that adorn my clothing, my car, my home – do not define me. That the only brand I adorn with integrity is ‘Child of God’. And this label is not of my earning. It is a gift. Abundant grace.

I believe that you have intrinsic value. Whether you agree with me, whether you are kind to me. Whether we know each other well or live worlds apart. Whether we share a similar system of belief or have nothing left in which to believe. You, neighbor, have value. Not because I have blessed you with my approval, or afforded such worth to you, but because you, too, were created Imago Dei, in the image of God.

I believe that I am not meant to be the dispenser of value; I am meant to be a conduit of honor. I honor others by knowing their name and relating from a place of shared humanity. I honor others by being genuine and kind, by acknowledging my faults and seeking reconciliation. I honor others by curbing my appetite for power, by living simply so others might simply live.

I believe that Jesus was and is the perfecter of honor. The quintessential example of valuing others based on shared humanity. In incarnate love, Jesus came to dwell among us, to be one of us. And in perfect love, the intrinsic value of all people – Jew and Gentile, slave and free, rich and poor, male and female, and anywhere in between – is affirmed. Jesus invites all of humanity to love one another.

I believe that my paramount responsibility in this life is to love people well. Starting with myself, extending to my family and friends, my community of faith, neighbors close to home and neighbors separated by space. When I live well, love radiates through me and my soul magnifies the Lord.

This I believe, with my whole heart.

From the Pastor

Credo graphic sept 2016

Warning, yet another nerdy confession follows. In college, I loved listening to an NPR radio show called, “This I Believe.” It was a revival of Edward Murrow’s program from the 1950s. Originally, Murrow launched the program to help people articulate individual beliefs rather than ascribing to religious dogma or patriotic platitudes. The show encouraged famous and everyday people to distill their beliefs into a simple essay, and then read the essay aloud over the air. The unveiled creeds diverged in countless ways, but all of them began with the same words, “This I believe.”

As Christians, we share a common set of beliefs confessed in the Apostle’s Creed. These shared beliefs form the foundation of our faith and our life together. Beyond this, we each hold individual beliefs about the world, the people and the experiences around us.  I believe it is essential to our faith and to the sharing of the gospel that each of us can clearly articulate what we believe.

In September, we will start a new series called Credo. As part of this series, I invite you to share your beliefs in a personal creed. More specifically, I am inviting you to write and read a personal statement beginning with the words, “This I believe.” It might take the shape of a top 10 list, a prayer, or a monologue. The point is not to be perfect or profound, though I imagine that will happen, the point is to articulate the beliefs that inform who you are and what you do.

We will share some of these creeds in written form via this electronic newsletter, eCelebrate. Some of the creeds may be read aloud in worship; others may be recorded to share in worship or on social media (of course with your permission).

So, what do you believe? Think about it. And get ready to share.

Pastor Jen

You can follow this link to explore the original and revived additions of This I Believe.

From the Pastor

The Making of Celebration April 2016

One of my favorite little people, my Goddaughter Marley, asked one question consistently, incessantly, for a while. What’s that making that noise? She loved to ask. She loved to make a noise and then ask. With any minute noise, she demanded an answer. And ‘I don’t know,’ was certainly not sufficient. Marley was (and still is) on a mission to discover her world.

So are we. The people of Celebration are on a mission to discover God at work in the world – and join in! So it seems most fitting to ask a few questions to remember who we are and what we are up to. Beginning Sunday, April 10, we will start a new sermon series called The Making of Celebration. The ‘making’ takes into account the 8+ years of faithful ministry that have brought us to this point, as well as the perpetual ‘making’, the creative work still happening today.

As a community, we will ask the basic questions, the tools of journalistic discovery: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? And with these careful queries and a hearty curiosity, we’ll discover God at work in this community, through this community, for the sake of the world.

Let’s discover together.

Pastor Jen

 

Just a Thought

Brother Christopher Markert

 

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.” -Phillippians 1:3-5

Greetings Celebration friends!

Pastor Jen invited me to share with you an update on what is happening in my life and ministry these days.

As many of you know, I left Celebration at the end of February in 2015 to serve as the interim Director for Evangelical Mission (DEM) for the Synod Office. This interim was meant to be short-lived with plans for me to move to Galveston in August. There on the Island, I would begin serving as the Director of Ministries for Lutherhill’s new Zion Retreat Center while also developing a new Lutheran Franciscan mission.

But the Holy Spirit had other plans (as God often does!).  For a whole host of reasons, what was to be a three-to-four month interim was extended to 11 months. And although I hadn’t applied to interview for the DEM position, at some point during the call process the interview team invited me to consider interviewing. At the end of February I was offered the position of DEM.

The role of the DEM is to help the synod in figuring out how we do mission together-  how we start and support new churches and ministries, how we revitalize existing churches and ministries, and how we practice generosity in our congregations and as a synod.

Of course, the difficult part for me was stepping down from my leadership role at Zion Retreat Center and the new Lutheran Franciscan mission. However, we are now in conversation with Lutherhill, the Lutheran Franciscans and the Synod Office in how we will move forward with the collaborative ministry on Galveston Island.  And in my role as DEM I get the joy of working in a new and different way to support this endeavor in Galveston!

I thank you for your prayers and support over the years, and especially this past year. And I want you to know that I continue to pray for Celebration and cheer you on in mission!

Peace and good,
Pastor Chris Markert
Director for Evangelical Mission

Just a Thought…

Unicorn StickerA spritely little unicorn sticker greeted me in the top right corner of my paper. It was the kind of sticker with a holographic ring around it; you know the kind that shimmers as the light dances across it. Next to the sticker, neatly lettered in cursive, the words “Well done.” I was elated, proud that my hard work had paid off. This little mythical creature brought an easy smile to my face.

One of my more playful seminary professors, Kae Evenson, likes to add these little pops of joy to seminary students’ papers. (I bet you thought this was elementary school – nope!) She thinks we take ourselves too seriously and need to revel in simple joys. While it certainly did bring me joy, I must admit it also brought a since of pride and approval.

The truth is – I do crave affirmation. I like to hear that my efforts have not been lost in the sea of busy-work and busy-ness. I like to hear that my time has been well used and my labor was not in vain. And while I do feel so loved and cared, sometimes this praise doesn’t come as readily as my fragile ego demands.

Sound familiar? On not so grace-filled days, do you find yourself waiting? Waiting for a friend to recognize how dedicated you are. Waiting for a boss to praise your diligence and productivity. Waiting for your family to realize that dirty clothes don’t wash themselves and tasty meals don’t just appear?

Waiting.

One of my favorite songs we sing at Celebration is Well Done by Moriah Peters. The tune is delightful, the musical stylings excellent and the words speak to my heart. It goes a little something like this:

So when my life’s a leap of faith, I can hear you say, Well Done. Well Done.
I’m gonna chase you Lord, I’m gonna show the world your love.
I’ll run. I’ll run. I’m gonna run this race just to hear you say well done.

This is the praise we need. Well done. In one of Jesus’ parables, the obedient servant is greeted with praise,  “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). While a little praise from this world is always welcome – it is fleeting. This affirmation from Jesus is the one I really long to hear. I need to hear that I am good. I need to be reminded that I am faithful. And I need to hear that this goodness and faithfulness flows from God who loves me beyond measure, just as I am. And with this, I can run the race with perseverance knowing that God says, Well Done. And the playful God I know likely has a shiny unicorn sticker, too.

It’s just a thought.

Vicar Jen

 

Here’s a link to Well Done for your listening pleasure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uu1VwK0fY9g

Just a Thought…

tardisDo you watch Doctor Who?  I was late to the show… by about 45 years!  It’s a British television series about an ancient cosmic time-traveler known as The Doctor, who travels by  a blue old-fashioned police phone box, who gets into all kinds of trouble, saving all kinds of people and planets with a variety of companions to assist him in his journeys.

It sounds silly, I know. But it’s fun to watch. I started with the new generation of the series (which re-launched in 2005).  It’s science and tech-heavy, but occasionally there are little hints of spirituality that burst through the storyline. That’s what happened the other day while I was watching an episode.  The Doctor says to his current traveling companion Clara, “Souls are made of stories, not atoms.”

Souls are made of stories. I find that theologically accurate.

Yes, Lutherans are science-friendly. We are not afraid of engaging the Sciences to help us better understand the universe and this world we live in.  We don’t believe Science and Faith are diametrically opposed. With that said, I believe that, at the core of our being, we are made up of stories.  These stories include the stories of a God who created the heavens and the earth… The stories of our ancestors who, whether enslaved or free, whether wandering or landed, encountered this God as Liberator, Judge and Lover of all… These stories include our own family stories, the stories of our own life experiences, and even the storied waters of Baptism as we enter THE Story of Jesus, and follow the way of Christ.

We cannot be who we are without the stories that make us who we are. Or, as the Doctor says, “Souls are made of stories, not atoms.”

Next Sunday, as we kick off Learning Curve, the children of our church will be focusing on the Parables of Jesus. These are stories that give us glimpses of who God is and what life in God’s Kingdom is like.

Come nourish your soul this Fall with the Story of Stories!

It’s just a thought.

+pax et bonum
pc

Just a Thought…

“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”2 Corinthians 5:17

 

So, I was the kid that lined up all my school supplies (trapper keeper included), carefully laid out my new outfit and probably would have slept with my shoes on if mom would let me. Eagerness for a new school year nearly consumed me. I couldn’t wait to meet my new teacher, catch-up with friends, show off my sweet friendship bracelets from summer camp and, oh yeah, learn.

The beginning of a new school year, of anything really, is marked by excitement and perhaps a tinge of anxiety. The uncharted territory of a new class, a new grade, a new school, ushers in uncertainty. A freshly minted kindergartner or college student leaves the comfort of the known, the familiar, for a new adventure. The old is not forgotten, it becomes a steady foundation, a step stool to peek into the future.

“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.”

So, I wonder. How are you being made new? This lifelong faith of ours calls us to renewal throughout all the ages and stages in life.

How is Christ making you new? Perhaps a new job, a new hobby, a new relationship. These experiences teach us about God, and about ourselves. When we step boldly from comfort zone, into a new adventure – God promises to show up.

On August 24, we will celebrate the new school year with Blessing of the Backpacks – a reminder that wherever we go, God is with us. A reminder that God is with us in excitement and uncertainty. A reminder that in Christ, we are a new creation.

It’s just a thought!

Vicar Jen

Just a Thought…

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him,  rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” -Colossian 2:6-7

I was recently reading some writings of a financial “guru” about being better at financial stewardship.  One of the things he said gets in the way of moving forward with debt reduction is that some people don’t even check their accounts regularly nor do they balance their checkbooks.  How can someone move towards financial health if she doesn’t even know her current financial situation or where she spends her money?

It’s the same with health.  If someone wants to become healthier, but has no clue how much he weighs, how many calories he eats, or how much he exercises, it makes it much more difficult for him to make a plan to move toward physical health.

So, what’s the hardest thing you struggle with in faith these days?  Do you struggle with just getting to worship on a regular basis?  Participating in small group life with other believers?  Entering intentional prayer or scripture reading on a daily basis? Practicing the biblical tithe (giving 10% of your income to the work of God)?

What’s the biggest obstacle you face these days in your spiritual growth and development?

The reason why this is an important question is because we can’t grow if we don’t know in which ways we need to grow.  So maybe take some time to reflect on where you’d like to grow spiritually, and then begin working to grow in that particular part of your spiritual life.  You’ll be glad you did.

It’s just a thought!

+ pax et bonum